How To Get There > Composting policies > Curbside Composting: Palo Alto, California, USA

Curbside Composting: Palo Alto, California, USA

Palo Alto, California

Single-family homes in Palo Alto have weekly curbside composting pickup for food scraps and yard trimmings. Composting options are also available for businesses and apartments.

Action(s) Taken

  • Composting policies

Who's Affected

  • Households
  • Apartments
  • Businesses



Year Enacted



Palo Alto, CA provides curbside composting to all single-family residences. Composting materials and yard trimmings are collected in the same green cart that was previously used for yard trimmings only. Kitchen buckets and a brochure were delivered to all Palo Alto residents and the City offered free composting workshops. GreenWaste of Palo Alto, a privately owned company, provides collection and processing services.

Multi-unit Complexes and Businesses

Compost collection is also available to multi-unit complexes and businesses. Complexes with 5-10 units receive free composting of up to 96 gallons per week and additional bins are available for a fee.

For larger complexes and businesses, compost collection is available at a monthly rate 10% less than the refuse rate for an equivalent volume. GreenWaste of Palo Alto provides free assistance for starting a composting program in multi-family units.

Zero Waste Goal

The City of Palo Alto is committed to Zero Waste by 2021 and reached 78% diversion in 2013. The city found nearly 50% of the remaining residential garbage was food scraps, prompting the investment in curbside food scrap collection.

Items Collected

Items collected by GreenWaste of Palo Alto include:

  • Food scraps (including bones and eggshells)
  • Food soiled papers (including waxed cardboard)
  • Yard Trimmings (including branches <6 in. diameter, <4 ft. long)
  • Compostable Plastics

Animal waste, sod, dirt, and treated wood are NOT collected at this time.


The addition of the composting program was paid for by an increase in domestic monthly refuse rates. There is no increase for commercial rates. Domestic refuse rates include processing and disposing of garbage, recycling, compostables, household hazardous waste, and funding for various other programs. In the second year, all rates will increase an additional 9% and in the third year, all rates will increase 8%. Note that this increase was also required for existing programs, not solely the new composting program. The new food scrap collection program costs approximately $500,000 annually and requires 19% of the total refuse fund. The cost for collection and processing of recyclables, compostables, and garbage is based on the volume of garbage disposed and the collection frequency. Collection may occur once, twice, or three times per week.

Residential (1-4 Units) First Year Monthly Refuse Rates for Weekly Collection:

  • Mini-can/20 gallon = $24.30 (9% increase)
  • 32-gallon = $43.75 (9% increase)
  • 64-gallon = $87.51 (14.6% increase)
  • 96-gallon = $131.26 (19% increase)

Two-sort Pilot Program

Palo Alto ran a pilot program to collect food scraps prior to rolling out a city-wide program. The pilot program experimented with a two-bin collection system—one bin for trash and recycling and one bin for food scraps and yard debris. The trash was bagged to keep it separate from the recyclables.

The city chose to return to a three-bin collection system after the pilot for several reasons:

  • Residents were not happy with the sorting system
  • The city did not save money or time in collecting the materials
  • Truck traffic did not decrease


Palo Alto List of Compostables

Palo Alto Refuse Rate FAQs

Palo Alto Compostables Flier

Palo Alto Food Waste Reduction Strategies

More Information

Palo Alto Residential Food Scraps Collection

GreenWaste of Palo Alto Website

GreenWaste of Palo Alto Residential Services

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